The prosecution was ready to go to trial today along with its subpoenaed witnesses, including several law enforcement officers
They were going to testify against an alleged 31-year-old Oxnard pimp.
But Carlos Hernandez, who was arrested last year on suspicion of being a pimp and engaging in human trafficking along with other prostitution-related crimes, had a change of heart. He decided to plead guilty to pimping.
Hernandez pleaded guilty to felony pimping and is looking at 3 years in prison when he is sentenced in June. Also he pleaded guilty to aiding in prostitution, a misdemeanor.
Since Hernandez is not a U.S. citizen, Attorney Heather Tomka who works at the Public Defender's Office, said her client is going to be deported after he serves his prison time.
Tomka said her client pleaded guilty out of fear of being sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence.
Hernandez was arrested with a 22-year-old Los Angeles woman who was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor prostitution were arrested at a home in the 100 block of South Hayes Street in Oxnard, according to the Oxnard Police Department.
A search warrant was also executed at the home following a four-month investigation by the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with the Oxnard Police Department.
Police found a loaded handgun along with paraphernalia related to prostitution.
According to jail records, Hernandez who is 5-feet, 6-inches tall and weighs 390 pounds, was initially charged with false imprisonment by violence and human trafficking and pimping.
Hernandez was also charged with several misdemeanors: keeping or living in a house of prostitution, possession of a deceptive government document, two counts of aiding in pimping and keeping a disorderly house, jail records indicate.
As part of the plea bargain agreement with the district attorney, he only pleaded guilty to felony pimping and aiding in pimping, a misdemeanor. The remainder of the charges were dropped.
Authorities also served a search warrant in the 13200 block of Filmore Street in Pacoima as part of the investigation.
At that residence, police found paraphernalia related to prostitution and arrested two Pacoima women, ages 49 and 21, according to Oxnard police.
Tomka said this was an injustice, saying her client pleaded guilty because he didn't want to risk getting the maximum sentence, which is six years on the felony pimp charge.
She said 14 law enforcement officers had been subpoenaed to testify for the trial. She said some of the officers conducted a surveillance of her client for two weeks. Also undercover police agents were sent to the houses to have sex but left before doing so, according to Tomka.
She said the prostitutes were video-recorded by the District Attorney's Office when they testified at an earlier hearing.
"It was a huge operation," she said, adding that there was no evidence that the women were being held against their will or that human trafficking was involved.
"They still proceeded with the prosecution," she said. "Out of fear of getting more time (in prison), he pleaded guilty. I think it's sad. I think it's an injustice...It's too much for what he did, and he pleaded out of fear."
Hernandez provided security for the prostitutes and would sometimes take them shopping, said Tomka.
She said Hernandez would put the money that was earned from prostitution in an envelope and give it to the "head honcho" who in turn paid Hernandez. Tomka said these envelopes with amounts scrawled on them were found during the execution of the search warrant.
Tomka said the prostitutes got $40 from each customer to have sex, and the "house" charged $20 a customer to use the residences.
Tomka said the "head honcho" remains at large and her client has refused to cooperate with law enforcement.
"They wanted my client to be a snitch," she said.
Hernandez along with the three prostitutes is facing deportation by immigration, said Tomka.
Prosecutor David Russell said pimping is a very serious crime and a person convicted of this crime can't be put on probation. He said probation is not an option on any prostitution conviction in the state. He said the highest sentence for a first offense for pimping is up to six years behind bars. The lowest possible sentence is three years, according to Tomka.
She said the prostitutes are also facing deportation.
Russell said law enforcement took about a month or more to investigate this case.